It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted here, not because I haven’t been learning lots about leading a mega-church, but just because leading a mega-church is far more demanding and time-consuming than I could have ever anticipated.  But as Coletta and I were talking this morning after a workout, I shared something I’ve come to understand and she said “you should definitely post about that!” So here goes:

The greatest threat to my development as a leader is lack of danger in my ministry.

In my last church, things were going well.  I don’t mean that things were perfect.  There were challenges we were facing and new challenges I could see taking shape on the horizon, but these challenges were all de-fanged by a pretty “safe” context.  See, the church was growing, the staff was aligning, giving was going up, people were coming to Christ, people were taking steps of faith, I was known and, I think, loved and respected. So the challenges weren’t scary.  They didn’t seem dangerous.

And in that context, I just wasn’t desperate to grow as a leader.  Sure, I listened to a few leadership podcasts and read some books, but I didn’t feel a white-hot need to grow as a leader.

But things are different now.  My prayer life has intensified.  My time in the Word has multiplied. Now, I’m voraciously consuming podcasts and leadership books.  I’ve reached out around the country to Christian leaders I respect and begged them to speak into my life and my leadership.  I’m setting up regular time each month with a few leaders who have graciously offered to be a sounding-board and a mentor/coach.

Why am I now being so intentional about getting what I need to develop as a Christian leader?  Because I’m leading in dangerous waters.

It’s not that things aren’t going well.  On the contrary, we’re seeing growth here at Mission Hills.  But now growth isn’t just exciting…it’s also terrifying!  I mean, seriously?  This thing is going to get even bigger than it already is? How are we going to keep from steering this giant ship into the rocks? How are we going to take care of this crazy number of people God has brought here? How are we going to develop and empower a staff this size? How are we going to make sure that we don’t lose momentum, which could lead to decline which could lead to pay-cuts and layoffs for a lot of people?  See, the road ahead looks dangerous – even when things are going well – in a way and on a level that it never did at a small church.

But here’s the thing: dangerous waters force me to swim hard, and swimming hard makes me stronger.

Safe waters don’t force me to invest in developing and growing as a leader. That’s why I say that the greatest threat to my development as a leader is a lack of danger in my ministry. Pastoring a mega-church has shown me this with stark clarity. Safe waters create stagnate leaders.

So here’s the counter-intuitive application: seek scary waters.  Of course I don’t mean do stupid, ill-considered things.  I just mean take risks.  Step out of your comfort zone. Commit yourself to vision and goals that are too big for you to accomplish unless you grow and develop.

And that’s not just about mega-church leadership.  It applies to leadership in any size church.

Seek scary waters or you’ll stagnate as a leader.

The principle also applies to leadership in your marriage.  See scary waters…by which I mean dream together with your spouse about new challenges God wants you to tackle together.  And those scary waters will force you to grow as a couple.  The principle applies in leading your family, your small group, your work…it applies everywhere.  In all of these areas of ministry…and they’re all ministry…safe waters create stagnate leaders.

Seek scary waters, because the greatest threat to your development as a leader is a lack of danger in your ministries.